A PUBLIC consultation to help shape future forestry grant support in Scotland has opened.

The consultation is seeking views on how the current Forestry Grant Scheme can be invigorated and better integrated with other sources of funding.

Since the scheme started in 2015, it has supported 5,930 projects, creating around 69,000 hectares of new woodland, an area equivalent to the size of East Lothian. Around half of the current woodland grant applications are for small-scale projects, mostly from farmers who are integrating trees into their businesses. 

Environment Minister Mairi McAllan said: "Our forests and woodlands provide multiple benefits for the people, environment and economy of Scotland.  It is our aim to grow a mix of new woodlands and ensure we get the right trees in the right place and for the right reason.

“It is important that both large and smaller scale projects thrive and continue to contribute to our woodland expansion plans." 

During a recent visit to Andrew Adamson’s farm at Netherurd, near West Linton, Ms McAllan heard how grants for creating and managing woodland could work better for the agricultural sector.   

“Farmers, crofters and community woodland owners are all very important in achieving our woodland creation targets," she said. "I was very pleased to find out more about Mr Adamson ’s tree planting and how it is benefiting his livestock and farming business.

Forestry Journal:  Farmer Andrew Adamson with Environment Minister Mairi McAllan Farmer Andrew Adamson with Environment Minister Mairi McAllan (Image: PR)

“I would encourage all those with an active interest in creating and managing woodlands to feedback their views on future forestry grant support through the consultation.”

The consultation will seek views through a wide range of questions including:

  • How can the grants evolve to better tackle the climate emergency?
  • How can future grant support address biodiversity loss, including the regeneration and expansion of native woodlands?
  • Which measures would help reduce the barriers for farmers and crofters wanting to integrate trees into their business?

  • How can the forest regulatory and grant processes evolve to provide greater opportunities for communities to be involved in the development of forestry proposals?
  • How could the current funding package be improved to stimulate woodland expansion and better management across a wide range of woodland types, including native and productive woodlands?

To tackle the twin crises of climate change and nature loss, the Scottish Government is increasing its woodland creation targets year on year, rising to 18,000 ha of new woodland each year by 2024/5.

While Scotland leads the way in the UK in terms of tree planting, it has repeatedly missed its own targets, and the total amount of woodland created in the 12 months prior to March 2022 was down on recent years. 

The public consultation runs for 12 weeks with all views being sought by May 17.